Choice or life?

Posted on April 30, 2007


Just last week, the place where I have recently made home – Mexico City – took a monumental legislative step. Women who are 12 weeks pregnant, or less, now have the right to abort their pregnancies. No more will they be jailed and tagged as criminals, thanks to 46 brave legislators, who voted to decriminalize early-term abortion.

Monumental, as Mexico City is the capital of one of the largest Roman Catholic populations in the world, second in fact, to Brazil. A little over 90 per cent of the Mexican population is Catholic. Out of Mexico’s 100 million, around 20 million people live in Mexico City. With stakes this high, it’s no wonder the Pope himself wrote to Mexican bishops asking them to oppose the measure.

Ground-breaking, too, if you factor in the “machismo” mentality pervasive in this country. The law can in fact be interpreted as a victory for women, who now have the freedom to take control of and make decisions over their own bodies and reproduction. Before, abortion was only allowed in cases of rape or if a woman’s life was at risk from the pregnancy.

Groups championing women’s rights have been campaigning for this change for years. They cite the estimated 200,000 illegal abortions done annually, and the 1,500 who die from botched procedures.

Weeks before the vote for the legislation, supporters of both sides of the issue were demonstrating passionately on the streets outside the assembly building. Riot police had to be mobilized to keep both sides from slugging it out. Death threats were also reportedly made against legislators supporting the change in law.

As a woman, I welcome the ability to choose. Since as long as I can remember, I had supported making abortion legal, my religion notwithstanding. I firmly believe that my body is mine and it’s nobody’s business but my own. Hence I applaud the progressiveness of the Mexico City legislative assembly.

But at the same time, I am conflicted about the innocent fetuses that will be terminated, probably when the pregnancy could be due to ignorance, or worse, folly.

Ideally, babies ought to be born to people ready and willing to give them happy homes. I’m old enough to know that that’s not always the case. Why bring another child to this world when one doesn’t have the resources, or worse, the inclination to give it a proper upbringing?

Perhaps the best way to avoid unwanted pregnancies and that unpleasant visit to the doctor’s office – legal or otherwise – is to educate people. About contraception, about the reality and responsibilities of raising a child.

Meanwhile, I’d admit that I’m still not sure which side of the debate I stand unequivocally on. I’m just glad that there’s a choice available for me.